Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Back to the basics


I’ve been studying Buddhism off and on since I was 18.  None of these ideas are new.  But now I feel like I understand it for the first time.   

These days I’ve been trying to cut through some of my personal confusion by getting back to the most basic elements of my life and my mojo, which is mysticism and writing craft.
I’ve discovered the audiobooks and ebooks of Pema Chodron.  Pema Chodron is a Tibetan Buddhist nun in the teaching lineage of Trungpa Rinpoche.   Because of my cultish past history I have issues with male spiritual authoritarian figures.  I don’t trust them.  I find them harder to listen to the more sure they are of what they have to say.  But women are different somehow.  My heart and mind are still open to them.   American born and bred, Pema Chodron, besides being the wise and funny and cuddly grandmother we never had, is an exceptional explainer of basic Buddhism to the western mind.  

When I was a young man I thought I had to search for God, as if God were something that could be found.  Since then I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things.  It’s as though now my actual search is not for God, but rather for my own humanity.  Mysticism fundamentally denies the duality of a creator and a creation.  The premise of mysticism is that there is no creator or creation, but only pure universal unmanifested consciousness manifesting itself in forms of energy, including ourselves.  Enlightenment in the way that Pema Chodron is presenting it, addresses that other duality that we never hear about, which is the duality within ourselves that sets up a defensive barrier between the world of consciousness manifesting and our experience of consciousness interacting with it.  

Enlightenment is being defined in Pema Chodron’s books and lectures as the expression of a fully opened heart and mind, experiencing the reality of our life just as it is, and the reality of our character just as it is.  It’s not about trying to change your life, or make yourself happy and never sad. It is about changing your stance towards reality itself.  It’s elegantly simple and yet completely bottomless in attainment.  In this way of looking at spirituality, the quest is, incrementally over time through mediation and the cultivation of compassion, to let down all your defenses and experience happiness and suffering head on without grasping onto one and avoiding the other.  Not to be divine – but to be at last fully and bravely human.  This takes a great deal of courage.


The other book I am rediscovering these days is the ultimate book on story craft, the formidably huge volume “The Making of a Story” by Alice Laplante.  This four pounder is the most comprehensive and detailed book that I know for the beginner and experienced writer on all aspects of the craft of writing fiction, and especially short fiction.  It’s my personal Bible.
What I find these female authors have in common for me is that they represent the “ineffable”.   Ineffable means something you can’t put into words.  Like say –what is the color blue?  Or what is God?  Or what is a good story?  The feeling of being fully present right where you are, the root of enlightened compassion, and being in “the zone” where the conscious and unconscious come together in a creative act such as writing represent experiences of depth and soul that can’t be put into words, only experienced just as they are.  They come from the same place in our souls.


As I grow old, I grow old, wearing the tops of my trousers rolled and dare to eat a peach even though the Mermaids won’t sing to me – like forget it, little buddy -  I find that what fascinates me are those things which can never be consummated.  Enlightenment and story craft are these mountains that can be climbed without ever reaching the summit.  The boundless adventure is knowing that the summit will always be out of your reach.   

Yet you climb.

12 comments:

  1. And the most erotic stories are the ones that focus on the intricacies of desire--not on its satisfaction.

    A lovely meditation, Garce, that strikes me as very true.

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    1. Hi Lisabet!

      The intricacies of desire and the anticipation of desire are definitely what have always hooked me on erotica. And the problem of how to depict them. When its good, there's nothing better.

      Garce

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  2. It's certainly true that we understand Buddhism, especially Zen, as we age. We learn that we must be satisfied with our life, no matter where it goes. I'm glad I've experienced so many things. Our place in this life is to live it.

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    1. Hi Daddy X!

      Yes, I wonder why that is? I think it might be that we're becoming more aware of our mortality and the impermanence of everything especially ourselves. But also I had an simple and moving spiritual experience a while back that really got my attention. Since then I've been thinking about these things a lot. There's a story in there somewhere.

      Garce

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  3. I believe that when we are younger, the hormones are too loud, so that we can't think about much else. For example, I remember when younger, often feeling this rage and anxiety in me, sometimes when driving, which led me to drive way too fast. Sometimes I felt it other times as well. I wanted to punch something or someone...or run a mile...or seduce every man I met and fuck them all, hard! Now I look back on that and think of it as the life force manifesting itself in me. That creative drive, that need to contribute, led me to pop out 4 babies. Then I started to write books.

    Now I don't feel those urges as much anymore, though I still like to drive too fast. But I'm more pragmatic. If someone cuts me off, I don't feel like I have to "show them they can't push me around," anymore. Now I just laugh and wish them well, saying aloud that once they're "getting some" regularly, they won't be so driven to get noticed by everyone else.

    So to me, the ability to understand life in all of its manifestations is something that only come with age and wisdom. As I told my kids when they were young, some of us get older and wiser, and some stay dumb as a rock and just get old. We all get to choose on this one. Use both of your lobes and choose wisely.

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  4. There are times when the notion of being a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the
    the floors of silent seas rather appeals to me. I was going to say it was related to getting old, but come to think of it, I was intrigued by Prufrock even in my college days. Used to quote it back and forth with a guy I dated at Harvard. I was weird even then. And he was even weirder.

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    1. I've been waiting for those mermaids to sing to me again. It's been a long time.

      Garce

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    2. It does seem that if the mermaids are singing "each to each," they are most likely bisexual, at least, and probably lesbian, although I suspect T.S. Eliot didn't intend any such interpretation, and was mainly looking for a good rhyme for "beach."

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  5. Fiona! Seduce every young man? Oh! Where were you when I was 20 years old? I think we would have collided like a train crash. Still trying to get my lobes to talk to each other. I wrote here once about one of the scariest thing's I ever read. Brain surgeons surgically separated the lobes of patients having extreme epileptic seizures. The separation actually cured the epilepsy but left the patient with two distinct, completely functional and autonomous ego identities inhabiting the same skull. That is seriously creepy to me.

    Garce

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    1. That goes along with the theory of the "bicameral mind", in psychology. Early man must have been seriously frightened when he heard "voices" in his head. Now we know that it's the inner dialogue that we all have going on constantly. But to them it must have seemed like gods or devils, talking in their brains.

      That's how I write all of my books: the characters show me entire scenes, dialogue and all, and I hone it until I finally get the time to sit down and let is all flow out into my laptop.

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  6. Two interesting books, Garce, and I've heard good things about both. I admire your ability to get through those big craft tomes.

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  7. I read a review of the book on Buddhism, and it does sound accessible to the Western (non-Buddhist) reader. I admire your ability to read books of non-fic that some would probably find too heavy.

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